Multi-touch interfaces are taking the computing world by storm. While not completely new (multi-touch research has been around since the 80’s), researchers such as Jeff Han are hard at work bringing it to the forefront of computing interfaces.
Traditional touch screens allow only one point of contact at a time. Apple’s iPhone utilizes a technique that allows for two. Han’s technology allows for multiple *people* to use all their fingers, simultaneously. Multi-touch computer screens may herald the end of the point-and-click mouse.
Demos of Han’s technology tends to result in spontaneous applause and audible gasps from the audience. His work hit the public eye in a YouTube video where he demonstrates the fluid simplicity of flat surface touch interface whereby you use your hands in intuitive fashion.
Then at TED 2006, in Monterey, CA, Han provided an interesting insight into the technology behind multi-touch, using a 26″ drafting table equipped with a multi-touch surface. Han begins with a simple lava lamp, then turns into a virtual photo-editing tabletop, where he flicks photos across the screen as if they were paper snapshots. While the video is mesmerizing, Han’s speech reveals his thoughts about physical versus virtual computing interfaces such as keyboards. Good stuff.
Han has spun off his NYU research into a company, Perceptive Pixel. In this demo video from the company, a very large surface reveals the obvious applications in education, communication, and visualization:
Here’s Han using an 8 foot display, where more details of the interface and gestures used to access menus are revealed: